After fourteen months of treatments for my illness, the doctor advised me that my fate was final and hospice would be my last destination.
For several days I was filled with dreaded fear and depressed from the doom and gloom news, but decided not allow bad news to stop me from seeing Paris one last time. So with my health aid nurse in tow, we traveled to the Hotel du Louvre in Paris for a 7-day stay.
I fell in love with Paris 60-years ago as a junior executive with International Business Machines. As a single man, Paris opened her arms for me to experience its beauty and we fell in love.
I proposed to Simone, my late wife, in the shadows of the Eiffel Tower on a summer afternoon. It was us walking along the Seine River when she told me about being pregnant with our first and second child. The city is in love with me and I with her.
After three days of touring my city, I looked towards the weekend on a Tuesday night and, I wanted to share my love of Paris France with family and friends. I notified my children, some family members, and friends to visit me for the weekend in Pais France. I explained how I wanted to share a quiet remembrance ceremony with dinner and dance.
Everyone agreed and after close collaboration with the hotel’s hospitality contact the lovely Adrienne Baux. She suggested I rent the Chateau de la Couronne two hours south of Paris.
Ms. Baux handled the transportation logistics for twenty-five people flying on the same plane from London and landing at 9:00 am on a Saturday at the Charles de Gaulle Airport. She procured a luxury passenger bus serving wine, appetizers, with foot and back massages and a short tour of Paris during its morning traffic before the two-hour bus ride to the town of Marthon France where the Chateau is located. When the bus arrived, I waited in the circular driveway watching their faces pressed against the windows happy to see me.
Tears of joy flowed from us all as the bus unloaded, with loving hugs exchanged, and a few were surprised to see me stand up from my chair. I had not seen most since I moved to Belgium for treatment.
The chateau’s host and hostesses escorted everyone to their rooms where each had their oversized tricycles waiting for them. After freshening up, we took to our tricycles with complimentary wine glass holders to hold the wine. We were escorted around the chateau’s property for a tour of the grounds. I was seated in a sidecar attached to a bicycle peddled by my son with my nurse following close behind on her tricycle.
Because of the advancing ages of some of my family and friends, it was fortunate each cycle was equipped with a blue-tooth speaker allowing the rider to hear the escort’s voice as she explained the garden’s designs, flowers and the significance of the quarter mile maze of hedges that stood 8-feet tall. The chateau’s extensive topiary garden was the crown jewel of the tour with shapes and designs to dazzle the imagination.
At the center of the garden stood the main party and dinner tent for the evening’s celebration. The white tent was decorated with gold sconces surrounding the walls illuminating soft shimmering lights. The white table cloths adorned with gold centerpieces filled with assorted colorful roses, baby’s breathing, and ferns. The oversized wooden chairs with arms rest and its raised backs complimented with soft leather upholstery allowed several to fall asleep for a time. I pre-programed the music to be played from my selection of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s Rhythm and Blues, Motown sounds and classic rock, which played continuously in the background.
Dinner was to be served at 7:00 pm, but we began with Hors D’oeuvres and a sampling of baked and pan-fried locally caught trout, with sautéed mixed vegetables followed by a small dish of lemon and lime sorbet to cleanse the palate and refresh our senses.
The main course was an elaborate thinly sliced braised beef sirloin, and grilled pheasant garnished with steamed vegetables served on the side. The salad course was tossed greens with vinaigrette to cleanse the palate again thus followed by various types of the best French cheese, and of course, wine poured freely during the entire evening.
The dessert course was an assortment of decadently sweet pieces of chocolate, cakes, and pies with French press coffees of choice.
During the dinner, tearful stories and testimonials from family and friends held my attention usually followed by bellowing laughter.
When all of the courses were finished, fireworks began, signaling the dance party to start and everyone danced well into the early morning.
At times throughout the evening, I absorbed every moment filling my heart with love and admiration, as I knew this was my last time seeing them all, knowing they accepted my decision.
The party ended just after 3:00 am with everyone intoxicated, and my nurse exhausted from rolling me around the dance floor, and luckily she stayed sober.
It was noon when we all endured a tearfully and mournful goodbye. As my hospice van drove away for the Chateau for my flight back Belgium, I felt the deep emotional appreciation for the love of my family, and friends who shared in my final decision.
Hospice is a finality on my terms and death is coming on my terms,